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Posts Tagged ‘Green Building’

VOLUNTEER SUPERSTAR AWARD to our own Chris Chwedyk

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

Chris Chwedyk has been recognized by the Heartland Regional Council of the US Green Building Council (USGBC) with a Chapter Volunteer Superstar Award, presented at the BUILDINGChicago/Greening the Heartland conference on September 29. Of the 24 winners throughout the central states region, Chris is the only recipient from Illinois. He has been a member of the (USGBC) since 2008 to present and was the Advocacy Chair for the Chicago Branch during 2011/12.

As the co-chair of the State and Local Government Committee for 2013/14, Chris as brought his extensive experience and expertise to support the mission of the USGBC-IL to advocate for Green Building Policies, Standards, and Codes, the advancement of Regional Green Building Research, and to Promote Existing Building Sustainability and Building Retrofits, providing leadership in managing chapter advocacy efforts and participation, as well as be an effective liaison between state, local, and national activities.Heartland2014Award_Chwedyk

Chris is especially committed to promoting a better understanding and enforcement of the Illinois Energy Code and the future adoption of green construction codes. He also believes in collaborating on mutually beneficial activities and goals to make USGBC-IL a stronger voice in promoting the implementation of green building programs throughout Illinois.

Congratulations to Chris Chwedyk for this well deserved recognition!

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4 Benefits Of Undergoing LEED Consulting

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

LEED consulting is a great way to take your building project to the next level. It can give you the tools you need to get LEED certification, help you learn to reduce your building’s carbon footprint, and make your project go more smoothly and efficiently. If you are considering undergoing LEED consulting at your current project, here are four major ways it could benefit you:

  1. You will know that your materials, drawings, and blueprints coincide with LEED qualifications. If you’re planning to file for LEED certification, LEED consulting is the way to go. From an early stage it can ensure that your materials, drawings, blueprints and designs are all in compliance with LEED qualifications so that you get approved and certified when the time comes.
  2. You will learn about the LEED submission and certification process. You will gain an intimate knowledge of the LEED certification process and learn what paperwork is necessary, what credits to file for, and how to make the process go more smoothly.
  3. You could qualify for certain LEED incentives. If you achieve LEED certification, it could qualify you for certain tax rebates and other incentives. Many jurisdictions offer rebates, discounts, and other monetary entitlements for structures that use green building techniques, materials, or energy sources.
  4. You will reduce the environmental impact of your project. With LEED consulting, you’ll also be able to cut down on your building’s carbon footprint and reduce its effect on your local environment. It could also lead to lower energy and water bills as an added bonus!

If you think LEED consulting could benefit your upcoming project, contact Burnham today to get started and learn more about the process. We’ll help you plan and implement strategies to make your building more green so that you can reduce your environmental impact and save your company money!


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Not Sure Where to Begin with Green Building Certification?

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

green building certification

Many developers nowadays are building with sustainability in mind. They’re using green practices and green materials and, in the end, they’re looking for green building certification to make it all official. Are you one of these developers? Do you want to build environmentally friendly, green buildings? Then follow this guide below.


Here’s how the green building certification process works:

  • You’ll choose the LEED ratings system you want to use on your development. This depends on the type of construction you’re building and its space usage. The choices include: New Construction, Schools, Retail, Core and Shell Development, Existing Buildings Operations & Maintenance, Commercial Interiors, Homes, Healthcare, and Neighborhood Development.
  • You’ll register your project and submit the appropriate fees. In this step, you’ll provide basic information regarding your project.
  • You’ll submit your certification application to go under review. Depending on the type of ratings system you applied under, the review process could have anywhere from two to five steps.
  • You’ll receive your final certification decision. Your certification will rely on the total final rating you receive from the LEED. You must get at least 40 points in order to be certified. If your project is a home, you must get at least 45 points for certification.


Once you are certified, you will receive an official certification of recognition and opt to be included in the LEED’s online project directory. You also may order plaques and additional certificates, and begin marketing your development as LEED-certified. If you do not receive green building certification, you have the right to appeal the decision and try again.


Need Help with Certification?
If you’re still not sure how to begin the green building certification process for your development, we can help. We’ll ensure your project meets all necessary requirements and help you file for LEED certification when it comes time. Contact us today for more information.

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Benefits of Using Green Construction Materials and Methods

Monday, January 7th, 2013

Benefits of Using Green Construction Materials and Methods

Environmental and financial building costs have been in an upward spiral for decades, with no end in sight.  One way to fight this trend is to use green construction materials and methods whenever possible.  They offer many advantages over traditional approaches.


Cost Savings


When viewed as a whole, green construction materials offer significant financial benefits when compared to traditional components.  This is true for the following reasons:


  1. Green materials are often recycled or reclaimed from other projects, avoiding initial production fees.
  2. They make it easier to conform to building codes, which are becoming increasingly stringent across the nation.  This reduces or eliminates costly delays in obtaining permits and passing inspections.
  3. Many green materials are becoming less expensive every day, due to increased production and improved fabrication methods.  The exact opposite is true of more traditional products.
  4. Major cities such as Chicago, as well as states like New York, are offering bonuses and other incentives to spur the development of building projects that incorporate green materials and methods into their makeup.


Enhanced Health, Productivity, and Well-Being


The hazards of using traditional materials in construction are well-documented.  Not the least of these is the presence of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which have a proven association with increased cancer risks and other health problems.


Green products are free of such contaminants.  For example, wheat straw can be formed into sheets that perform the same function as plywood, without the use of formaldehyde.  Vinyl-free floor coverings don’t contain that substance’s many toxins.


Being guided by such facts in selecting construction materials offers many benefits.  It enhances the overall environment in the completed structure, leading (in the case of commercial buildings) to more productive employees, and (in the case of residential dwellings) to healthier, more physically active occupants.


Also, green construction materials go hand in hand with environmentally friendly building designs and methods, which incorporate natural light sources, open spaces, and brighter surroundings.  All of these elements are associated with enhanced health and greater happiness.  They have considerable payoffs for employers, builders, health care providers, and society at large.


Achieving These Benefits


In order to reap the rewards of using green materials and methods, a commitment to using them must be made from the project’s onset, even prior to obtaining the first general construction permit.  The engineers, architects, consultants, and other professionals should be well-versed in environmentally friendly building methods.  They should work together to ensure that every possible sustainable method is taken advantage of.  For example, water systems should be designed to collect and use local rainfall as much as possible.


Site Choice Criteria


Choosing an appropriate location for the project involves numerous considerations.  Some of the factors that could disqualify a particular choice include:


  1. The nearby presence of endangered species.
  2. The site’s cultural or historical significance.
  3. The need to deforest large areas, significantly alter the landscape, or disrupt the local ecosystem in any major way, such as altering the course of waterways or draining wetlands.


Determining that the land shouldn’t serve another purpose, such as agricultural production or providing recreational opportunities, is also an essential part of this stage of the project.  While these considerations might limit the choice of sites, they will help ensure that the final structure is an asset to the surrounding environment, not a detriment to it.


Site Design


Traditional architecture has done far too little to consider the effect of local resources such as sunlight and wind on the shape the completed structure should take. For example, air conditioning bills are affected by the predominant breezes in the area.  Areas free of existing trees can incorporate natural sunlight into structures better than can locations in valleys or those with significant overhead vegetation cover.


A long, narrow structure is well-suited to making the most of prospects for solar power generation.  Locating fixed structures, like stairwells, in the building’s interior zones can leave room for work areas to receive a greater share of natural light.


Planting and Landscaping


Eco-friendly structures incorporate vegetation choices into their overall design.  For example, traditional lawns require maintenance by gas-driven lawn mowing equipment and the use of pesticides.  They provide little in return other than conformance to cultural norms.  Alternative plants such as Dutch clover, on the other hand, have a pleasing appearance, require little or no upkeep, and provide food for wildlife.


As much as possible, the choice of plants, shrubs, and trees must be determined by what is native to the local environment.  For example, arid regions are home to drought-resistant plant species that flourish on minimal water, greatly reducing or even eliminating the need for such intrusive methods as installing sprinkler systems.  A green landscaping plan will take such factors into consideration.




Modern building automation developments offer significant benefits for minimizing waste and should be incorporated into the structure as much as possible.  Motion detectors can switch off lights in unoccupied rooms.  Individualized climate control systems can limit heating and cooling to areas of the building where people are present.  HVAC systems that use green refrigerants avoid the damage to the ozone layer caused by CFCs.  In addition, wind turbines and solar panels should furnish as much of the building’s power needs as possible.


Burnham Nationwide Can Help With Your Green Building Project


We can provide you with the assistance of a LEED accredited professional to advise you on all aspects of eco-friendly building materials and methods.  This will help ensure that your completed structure will benefit from as much as possible from all applicable certifications and incentives.  Get in touch with us today, and put our expertise and experience to work for you.

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What You Need to Know About Green Building Technologies

Friday, November 16th, 2012

What You Need to KnowAs more cities and municipalities become environmentally conscious, green building technologies will be increasingly adopted across the country.  Because of this, it’s important to have a basic understanding of what “green” or sustainable building is all about.  Here’s a look at the major concepts and practices that fall under these terms.


General Goals


The overarching purpose of green construction is to reduce the environmental impact of human building activities.  In specific terms, this translates into objectives such as:


  1. Using water, energy, and other resources as efficiently as possible.
  2. In residential settings, protecting the health of occupants; in commercial or industrial settings, safeguarding the well-being of customers, visitors, and employees.
  3. Reducing or eliminating the amounts of pollution and waste products generated, both during the building process as well as during everyday use of the property.
  4. Accomplishing these goals while also achieving an acceptable level of human comfort.


In short, green construction seeks to accomplish building projects without burdening future generations with health or environmental costs.


History of Green Building


The sustainable construction movement goes back to the dawning of ecological awareness in the 1960s.  It gained further support as a result of the energy crises of the 1970s.  Today, it constitutes a major sub-category under the umbrella of construction techniques and practices.  Among its emphases are passive and active solar systems, rainwater collection for drinking, bathing and sanitary uses, and maximizing thermal efficiency to minimize use of resources such as coal, electricity, and heating oil.


Innovations like these are sorely needed in today’s world.  A study released by the International Energy Agency shows that 40% of the world’s energy consumption is caused by existing buildings.  In addition, a quarter of all carbon dioxide emissions across the world stem from residential, industrial, and commercial properties.  Reducing these levels is crucial for the continued health of the planet as well as the millions of species supported by the ecosystem.


Aesthetic as Well as Practical Principles


Green construction seeks to not only make buildings more efficient but also more beautiful, by designing and building them in harmony with the surrounding natural landscape.  The finished structure should not stand apart from the existing environment.  Rather it should blend into it as seamlessly as possible.


Green Construction Begins With Green Design


Also known as sustainable design, this is an architectural school of thought that looks at construction within the context of the surrounding environment and with an eye towards maximizing the use of local resources.  For example, constructing a steel skyscraper in a region far from iron ore deposits requires transporting materials thousands of miles using fossil fuels.  It also depends on extensive infrastructure systems that often intrude on ecological systems.  For these reasons, green building consultants may advocate alternative designs that can be constructed using indigenous resources.  In forested areas of the US, this may mean taking advantage of locally harvested lumber.  In more arid regions, it may entail the use of adobe, stone, or other products found or made close by.


It Begins And Ends With Efficiency


Environmental impact cannot be reduced unless natural resources are used in a way that gets the most “bang for the buck.”  In green building technology, this principle expresses itself in three ways:


  1. Energy efficiency – This is accomplished by reducing air leakage through the building envelope, using high-performance windows, and adding extra insulation to the ceilings, floors, and walls.  Passive solar effects are also considered.  Windows, porches, decks, and awnings are oriented so that deciduous trees can help shade them during the summer while not interfering with the sun’s warming rays during winter.  Also, increased use of skylights and large windows can reduce the need to use artificial lighting sources during daylight hours.  Plumbing pipes can be exposed to the outside environment, to allow solar rays to help warm water used for washing and bathing.  Finally, generating power by such means as photovoltaic cells, windmills, local waterways, biomass, or geothermal resources can lessen or eliminate dependence on electrical utilities.


  1. Materials efficiency – Green construction materials derive from renewable resources such as bamboo, straw, and lumber, recycled metal and stone, and in general, any products that are-nontoxic while being either renewable, recyclable, or reusable.  These can include adobe, clay, rammed earth, high-performance concrete, wood fibers, coconut, sisal, and cork.  In any event, the materials should be gathered as near to the building site as possible to avoid use of fossil fuels in delivering them.  They should also be manufactured locally for this same reason.


  1. Water efficiency – One disastrous side effect of over-building and urban sprawl has been the depletion of local water resources in many parts of the United States.  For example, much of the population of the state of Georgia did not have access to running water for several months in the late 2000s, due to overuse and exhaustion of local aquifers.  To avoid these problems in the future, all local water resources should be used, including rainfall, which can be caught and stored in on-site storage containers for later use.  Purification issues can be dealt with by having local purification facilities.  The use of water should also be minimized, through the use of energy-efficient toilets, showers, and washing machines.  Recycling sewage and graywater can also help in this regard.


Improving Health and Quality of Life Indoors


Over the past three decades, a growing mountain of evidence has pointed out the health risks associated with many traditional building materials.  Lead-based paints, asbestos, and products containing formaldehyde are the best-known examples.  However, anything which contains volatile organic compounds (VOCs) can negatively impact indoor air quality (IAC).  To make the internal environment as healthy as possible, green building technologies employ these strategies:


  1. Using filtered ventilation systems to remove microbes, VOCs, and other potentially harmful contaminants from the local atmosphere.  This approach, when combined with lessened use of toxic building materials, can make the air the occupants breathe as healthy as possible.
  2. Excessive moisture in the air promotes the development of mold, mildew, bacteria, and viruses.  On the other hand, excessively dry air irritates nasal passages and exacerbates certain skin and other conditions.  Because of this, green construction involves regulating the humidity levels in the structure.
  3. Maintaining the temperature at a comfortable level requires energy output.  However, this can be minimized by the incorporation of extra insulation and passive solar effects, as discussed previously.


Ongoing Maintenance and Building Use


Green building involves not only building design and construction, but also day-to-day maintenance and operations.  A key goal of sustainable construction is the reduction of waste products stemming from the activities conducted within the structure.  The importance of achieving this objective cannot be overstated.  In California, for example, commercial buildings are responsible for over 60% of the total waste products generated in the state.


The pathway to reducing this total includes such measures as recycling as many materials as possible, including the gathering of human waste for use in biomass energy creation projects.  The incorporation of reusable materials during the construction process also ensures that much of the structure can be remanufactured after its useful life ends.


The Payoff


It cannot be denied that, for the present at least, using green methods adds to the cost of construction.  However, over the additional investment more than pays for itself in environmental as well as financial benefits.  Studies show that, on average, sustainably-built structures offer a tenfold return on the investments put into them.  From both a monetary and environmental point of view, green building technologies just make good sense.


Burnham Nationwide Offers Sustainable Consulting Services


Sustainable design and construction are specialized fields that require input from experts to successfully implement.  That’s just the kind of guidance you’ll receive from Burnham Nationwide’s staff of green building consultants.  Let us show you how your construction project can be profitable environmentally as well as financially.  Contact us today.

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New York City Joins the Tiny Home Movement

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

One of the biggest contributors to humanity’s carbon footprint is housing.  By 2020, 60% of Earth’s human population will live in highly concentrated urban areas, which are notorious for straining natural resources and contributing to global warming, yet only 1/8 of the planet’s surface is suitable for people to live on.  The rest is ocean, deserts, and mountains.  Adding to this dilemma is the fact that civilization is already crowding out both agricultural lands as well as wildlife habitat. This is an environmental time bomb that is ticking ever louder.  A contest inspired by the tiny home movement may be part of the answer, however.


The Tiny Home Movement to the Rescue


One way to combat this problem is to reduce the size of the average home.  In the 1950s, the typical American family lived in about 1200 square feet.  That has doubled in the decades since to almost 2400 square feet.  In many cases, much of that space is wasted.  A common issue among homeowners is what to do with the “spare” bedroom or the “extra” family room.  Most often, these unneeded areas are used as storage space for items that could be sold, donated, or recycled, yet every inch of it adds to the home’s impact on the environment, through the extra materials used, and the energy needed to alternately heat or cool it.


In response to this growing problem, many people are going in the opposite direction.  They are purposely choosing to partake in the tiny home movement.  Singles and couples are finding that as little as 100 square feet is enough for them to dwell in quite happily.  Entire families share homes that take up 500 square feet or less.  These ecologically sensitive people use a variety of ways to buy or build structures that are cozy, energy-efficient, and have minimal impact on the earth, all while complying with housing codes and laws.


Tiny Houses Go Urban


One of the limitations of this approach has been the fact that large cities have traditionally discouraged the construction of smaller-sized green homes.  New York mayor Michael Bloomberg is working to change this fact.  “Developing housing that matches how New Yorkers live today is critical to the city’s continued growth,” he said in a recent interview.  “People from all over the world want to live in New York City, and we must develop a new, scalable housing model that is safe, affordable, and innovative to meet their needs.”


City Zoning Requirements Waived


Bloomberg recently announced a contest to design micro-apartments to accommodate the city’s growing population of single and single-parent households.  The competition will put designers and builders in competition to develop a plan for a housing complex made up of individual housing units with 275-300 square feet.  Each unit must have a bathroom and kitchen.  Innovation and sustainability will be major criteria for determining the winner.


All proposals must be certified by the Enterprise Green Communities Program, which provides guidelines for safe, green, cost-smart housing.  The funding for the competition is coming purely from private sources.  “With this important housing pilot, New York once again leads world cities in devising creative solutions to the challenge of accommodating growth in an environmentally sustainable way,” said Kathryn Wylde, president of the non-profit Partnership for New York City.


The initiative is part of Bloomberg’s New Housing Marketplace Plan.  This is a long-term project that will either preserve or create 165,000 affordable housing units by the end of 2014’s fiscal year.  A conference for interested design teams was held on July 31st, and the deadline for proposals to be submitted is September 14th.   This tiny home movement hopes to be the wave of the future.

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A Look at USGBC History

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

This year marks the fifteenth anniversary of the U.S. Green Building Council. Currently the leader of the green building industry, this organization, as you know, is responsible for running and overseeing the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) ratings. Projects that have been awarded LEED certification exist all over the world, and to help mark their fifteenth year anniversary, we are including this brief look at USGBC history.


The USGBC was formed as part of a vision. Its founders wanted to improve the way that we live on the Earth. They wanted our buildings to work at sustaining rather than depleting our planet. Part of The USGBC’s fundamental purpose was to make green buildings a cultural norm. Part of their vision was to make green building so commonplace that eventually anyone working on a building project would embrace its methods and technologies.


No USGBC history would be complete without looking at the personal histories of the organizations’ founders. Most interviews with the principals of this organization reveal that these individuals have had a relationship with the environment or with nature that originated during their childhood. The concept of green building has existed since the 1980’s. However, the core of the USGBC was formed in the 1990’s when then president Bill Clinton asked members of the American Institute of Architects to work on greening the White House. Several of the people involved in that project branched off and helped to form the USGBC.


While working on formalizing their building standards and certification levels, they also engaged in a number of community rebuilding projects. After Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, members of the USGBC went to this city to help with its rebuilding efforts. They were primarily able to focus on the schools in that area, and they helped to rebuild many of them in ways that made them healthier, sturdier, and more environmentally friendly than the buildings that had been destroyed.


After a tornado destroyed Greensburg, Kansas in 2007, the members of the USGBC arrived to help rebuild this small town. They worked to make this city a green model that has been noticed by developers and architects from around the world. USGBC has helped to quantify and define the effects of using green technologies in building. This pragmatic approach has helped many developers to understand the cost and environmental benefits of these technologies, and thus, it has encouraged many developers to embrace these technologies. Over the last fifteen years of USGBC history, they have brought green construction from relative obscurity to its current central role in society.


Now, this organization wants to promote green building at a rate that competes with the speed of global warming. Currently, they claim that only three percent of building efforts are green enough. However, the USGBC is working on ways that they can continue to promote LEED standards on a larger scale. For instance, they are trying to figure out how to create infrastructure elements that can be used to make entire cities greener. Ideally, they want projects to be just as concerned with how people get to their buildings and with the environmental impacts of the areas around their buildings as they are with their own green materials and building technologies.


The ultimate goal of the USBGC is to address two large issues: the effects of the industrial revolution and the effects of the world’s quickly growing population. In order to do that, they must stage not only an environmental movement but a cultural movement. They are searching for universal solutions that can endow people’s lives with meaning while also revitalizing their neighborhoods and improving the environment.


Bob Berkebile, one of the principal architects with the USGBC, has referred to Einstein’s comments about man and nature. According to Berkebile, Einstein identified an adversarial split between men and nature. Einstein claimed that if people were able to break free of this illusion, they will be able to finally see the universe as a friendly place. USGBC history is relatively short. However, their goals are immense, and the organization will undoubtedly be around a long time as they strive to reach their goal of creating sustainability within a generation.

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The LEED Certification Process – Part 1: Requirements

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

There are many benefits to making your next project green. One of the easiest identifiable benefits is getting tax benefits and credits through the LEED certification process. In addition, you may also make your building run more efficiently and have a higher resale value. It is not always easy to identify what the LEED certification requirements are. In order to assist you, we have compiled a look at these requirements in this article. To further assist you in your efforts, we have a team of LEED trained professional consultants who can help you along every step of the way. First, this article will look at the different aspects of LEED certification. Then, it will include a brief analysis of how meeting these requirements can save you money. 


There are many different categories in which a project can earn LEED certification. These include the following: newly constructed buildings, the core and shell of buildings, schools, newly constructed or renovated retail locations, and newly constructed or renovated healthcare buildings. Each of these six categories has different certification requirements. In order to gain certification in any one category, you will need to satisfy the requirements of that category. Some of the requirements overlap. For instance, you can use solar energy in any of these categories. However, some of the requirements are unique to a particular category. In the school category, you can earn points by buying and using furniture that is non-toxic and safe for school children to sit in all day.


There are also ways that you can satisfy LEED certification requirements for your building’s interior design. Part of the certification process addresses the green design and construction of a building’s interiors. In this large category, there are two subsets, and they are devoted to commercial interiors and retail commercial interiors. There is also a certification for the operation and maintenance of existing buildings. This certification requires your project to address everything from the types of cleaning solvents that it uses to the way it addresses whether or not idle machinery stays switched on. You can also earn credits for helping to develop your neighborhood from a green standpoint. Even residential properties can earn LEED credits.


In every LEED certification process, there are six categories in which a project can gain points. These categories look at the following aspects: the sustainability of the site, the efficiency of the water usage on the site, the total energy use in the project and its effect on the atmosphere in the area, the usage of green materials, and the environmental quality of the air at the site. Projects can earn a total of 100 points. In addition, they can earn six bonus points for being innovative and four bonus points for being a priority in their region. If they earn a minimum level of 40 to 49 points, they receive basic certification. In the next level, they must earn 50 to 59 points for a silver rating. If they earn 60 to 79 points, they will get a gold ranking, and if they earn over 80 points, they will receive a platinum ranking. Residential properties are ranked on a different scale.


However, even with this information at hand, it can be difficult to assess the value of the various requirements. For the purposes of this article, we can show you a few examples of how projects have saved money. If you would like to estimate how much a particular green building technology would save you, you should speak with one of our green consultants.


Recent studies indicate that the efficiency of LEED buildings is good enough to cover the costs of implementing those building methods. For instance, one contractor has suggested that if a building’s energy usages are reduced by 20 percent, it can save the building’s owner about 36 cents per square foot every year. In a 100,000 square foot building, that represents a savings of approximately $36,000 per year.


Some LEED requirements help businesses save money by the way that these green efforts affect the people who work in these buildings. When buildings have a less toxic interior, the personnel in those buildings are more productive and sick less often. In the United States, it is estimated that the labor costs of the average business are approximately $150 per square foot per year. If a cleaner indoor environment improves worker productivity by one percent, it will save the business about $1.30 per square foot per year. In a 100,000 square foot building, that equates to a yearly savings of about $130,000 per year. Ideally, indoor environmental efforts will equate to more than a one percent increase in productivity and will save the business owner more money.


These are only two examples of how the LEED certification process can save you money. For more information on certification requirements and how they can benefit you, we at Burnham Nationwide would love to speak with you. We can guide you to the answers about how to save money while helping the environment.

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Green Remodeling: It’s Never Too Late!

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

Once a house has been completed, it can be difficult to add certain green remodeling features. Prior to implementing such drastic changes, homeowners should speak to consultants like the ones at Burnham Nationwide. They can provide essential advice before large projects are undertaken. However, there are several small steps that homeowners can take on their own. These small green remodeling ideas can have a large impact and will potentially save homeowners money, while also saving the planet.


One of the easiest green remodeling tactics for homeowners is reducing the air leaks that are caused by drafty windows. By sealing off drafts, homeowners can reduce their total energy bills by five to thirty percent. Those figures are estimates from the United States Department of Energy. Because energy prices vary from city to city, it can be hard to convert those values into a dollar amount. However, in a place like Minnesota where energy bills for a small drafty home can be as much as $400 per month in the winter, those savings would equate to anywhere between $20 and $120 per month. Over time, those savings can add up to a lot of money.


To find drafts, you can carefully wave an incense stick around every window frame. The direction that the smoke blows will tell you if there is a leak or not. After you find the leaks, you should use caulk or weather stripping to seal them. If there are any pipe outlets or foundation cracks, you should make sure that you cover them as well. If the bottoms of your doors allow in drafts, you should address these spaces too. A rolled up towel is the perfect easy remedy for these drafty spots.


Another easy green remodeling tactic is to install a programmable thermostat. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, an average family can save about $13 per month with a programmable thermostat. This device ensures that you never forget to turn down the heat at night or during the day while you are at work. With that figure in mind, you will have covered the cost of the thermostat itself in as few as four months. You can purchase these devices at most big-box home improvement stores or small hardware stores. As long as you have a screwdriver and the instructions on hand, you should be able to quickly uninstall your old thermostat and install one of these.


You can reduce your family’s water usage without making any major changes to your lifestyle. The three main ways to make this happen are: fixing leaks, installing green toilets, and using low-flow showerheads. Drippy faucets or pipe joints can sound annoying. However, in addition to sounding annoying, they also waste a lot of water. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, a dripping faucet can waste up to three gallons of water every day! Most leaks can be fixed with pliers or a wrench. However, some leaks are difficult to reach. For those, you should contact a professional.


Approximately thirty percent of a family’s water usage is via their toilet. When you consider this staggering statistic, it only makes sense to invest in a low-flow toilet. A generation ago, toilets all used five gallons of water per flush. Now, low-flow toilets can do the same job with less than a gallon of water. Family’s can extend their green remodeling efforts to their showers as well. For only $8, homeowners can purchase low-flow showerheads that will reduce their shower-water consumption by anywhere from fifty to seventy percent.


After making all of those changes, is it time for new appliances yet? Energy Star appliances can be found at nearly any appliance retailer or even ordered online. The Energy Star label was designed by the EPA. When an appliance displays the Energy Star designation, it means that it is ten to fifty percent more efficient than a standard appliance in the same category. These appliances will help homeowners lower monthly energy bills, create less pollution, and in some cases, they may even make the buyer eligible for a tax credit. Once a home is full of energy star products, the homeowners can save about $600 per year.


All of these green remodeling tips are great for your planet, as well as your pocket book. If you need advice about making more drastic changes, you should speak with one of the green consultants at Burnham Nationwide. It’s never too late to go green!

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How Using Green Construction Materials Saves You Thousands

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

Using green construction materials can present a higher upfront cost for developers than traditional building materials. However, there is a very persuasive argument that these materials are worth the higher initial investment; they increase the resell value of the property, save the building thousands of dollars in yearly energy costs, and benefit the environment. In addition, as green building technologies continue to be developed, some of their prices will drop.


Trying to determine how much money is saved through the use of green construction materials may, at times, be hard. The cost of a roof made with green building technologies is difficult to assess, and so too, is the financial benefit. When contractors make a roof with LEED points in mind, they can use a roof-comparison calculator. These calculators, like the one created by the National Roofing Contractors Association, take into consideration a number of factors, from materials to roof size. Then, they calculate your potential energy savings. They cannot, however, take into account certain factors like the heating and cooling equipment, the local weather, or the efficiency of other areas of the building that may negatively impact the roof.


When you look at statistics, you need to keep in mind the fact that roof efficiency varies from building to building. Zinco, a green roof manufacturer from Germany, estimates that green roofing materials can help a building to save 2 liters of fuel per year for every square meter of roof. They estimate that the roof will pay for itself over two to three years of use. When their materials were used on a London roof, they saved £4,300 ($7,060) in energy costs per year at the current energy rate. In this case, their materials were added to a pre-existing roof, but if they had been used when the building was new, they may have saved £10,000 ($16,419).


The cost benefit of green construction materials is hard to calculate, but when you come across statistics, they are always favorable. In addition to energy cost savings, green building technologies offer a host of other advantages. They can remove carbon emissions from the air, sometimes at an incredibly impressive rate that allows one roof to remove the impact of dozens of vehicles. They also increase the resale value of the building in a manner that suggests that a two percent higher investment in building materials can yield a twenty percent return in resale value.

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